English & EAL

One simple change to boost your context essay score

Lisa Tran

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Imagine this. You’re an examiner with 100 context essays to correct your deadline and then, once you’re done you’ll collect another stack of essays to cross-examine before the next deadline. Seems pretty overwhelming doesn’t it? Nevertheless, this isn’t what you need to worry about. Your concern should lie in the fact that during the short period your essay is marked, your essay needs to stand out. So what are you going to do to score a better mark than the 40,000 other essays? The answer is simple (or perhaps the question), which examples do you use?

In Writing in Context essays, students are required to back up their contentions with all sorts of examples, from the text you study to historical events, people and personal experiences. This post will focus on historical events, but keep in mind that what I say next applies to any example you incorporate into your essay.

Year after year, students use the same old examples in their essays. For example, we’ll take a look at Encountering Conflict (if this isn’t your chosen topic, read on – you’ll still get something out of this!). Undoubtedly in class, you would have discussed major conflict events such as World War I and II, The Holocaust, Russian Revolution, French Revolution, and the list goes on. Of course these conflicts have great significance in developing your understanding of the context. They are also fantastic examples for many prompts you will encounter. Here comes the problem: if you’re writing about World War I – won’t thousands of other VCE students be doing the same? While these examples are great, they are often the most obvious and most common answers used. And because of this, you risk your essay being embedded within thousands of other essays.

So what can you do to counteract this? While an obvious choice may prove your contention quite effectively, think about other less discussed examples that still support your contention. If your focus is war, instead of using World War I, why not use the Korean War? Instead of Hitler, why not discuss Khmer Rouge? If you were a marker and you came across something that was unique – wouldn’t that immediately stir your interest? You want them reading your essay not because they have to, but because they want to!

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